editor's blog
Subscribe Now

Intentionally Fuzzy

All software has bugs; every system has some kind of vulnerability. And the canonical way of dealing with them is to fix the bugs or tighten the code to eliminate system weaknesses. And then we patch our systems, as anyone who has been late to the airport and has shut down their computer in a last-ditch effort to get out the door, only to have the computer say, “Updating 1 of 32… Please do not power down or unplug your computer,” can attest. (Because, when Windows decides it’s time to update, well, there’s not much in this universe that can out-prioritize that.)

Editorials aside, each of those patches required someone to find a problem, then figure out how to fix the problem, then actually fix it, and, finally, test to prove that the fix doesn’t do some other harm. And that all takes time. If the vulnerability is severe, then ne’er-do-wells could be out busily enjoying unfettered access to somewhere they’re not supposed to be while the hole is being plugged.

So, when it comes to security for important infrastructure like utilities and other industrial sites, you can’t wait for the fix. In fact, a fix might not even be forthcoming. Instead, you figure out what malevolent traffic might look like, and you block it. You’re not fixing the broken lock on the door to keep the burglar out; you’re simply putting a dog in front of the door to filter out the burglars.

This is the situation described to me by Wurldtech’s Greg Speakman and Nate Kube shortly after they announced that Siemens’s CERT lab had been certified on Wurldtech’s Achilles certification testing. Achilles is a test facility that includes “fuzzers” – tests that present equipment with traffic that is almost correct, but is mutated here or there. The idea is to see if such “nearly good” traffic can get in and cause an observable change in behavior (which might be benign or might have no deleterious effect unless sustained over time) or, worse yet, cause a system failure. They automatically create tests based on protocol standards and run those against their clients’ systems.

When issues are found, the signatures of the offending traffic enter their database and are used to strengthen the traffic filters. They claim to have found over 350 “0-days” for their clients. The oddly-named “0-day” refers to any vulnerability found by outsiders before the equipment company itself knows about it – they’ve had 0 days to respond to it.

That characterization makes sense for systems already out on the market, but apparently it still applies if a company contracts someone like Wurldtech to help with system validation before shipping the systems. The fact that the issue was found outside the company – even if at the company’s request, before any systems are shipped into the field – seems to qualify it as a 0-day (even though, if the equipment maker bought out the certification house or did similar testing in-house, then the same discovery would no longer be a 0-day).

You can find more on the recent Siemens certification in their release.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 19, 2022
The current challenge in custom/mixed-signal design is to have a fast and silicon-accurate methodology. In this blog series, we are exploring the Custom IC Design Flow and Methodology stages. This... ...
May 19, 2022
Learn about the AI chip design breakthroughs and case studies discussed at SNUG Silicon Valley 2022, including autonomous PPA optimization using DSO.ai. The post Key Highlights from SNUG 2022: AI Is Fast Forwarding Chip Design appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
May 12, 2022
By Shelly Stalnaker Every year, the editors of Elektronik in Germany compile a list of the most interesting and innovative… ...
Apr 29, 2022
What do you do if someone starts waving furiously at you, seemingly delighted to see you, but you fear they are being overenthusiastic?...

featured video

Intel® Agilex™ M-Series with HBM2e Technology

Sponsored by Intel

Intel expands the Intel® Agilex™ FPGA product offering with M-Series devices equipped with high fabric densities, in-package HBM2e memory, and DDR5 interfaces for high-memory bandwidth applications.

Learn more about the Intel® Agilex™ M-Series

featured paper

Introducing new dynamic features for exterior automotive lights with DLP® technology

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Exterior lighting, primarily used to illuminate ground areas near the vehicle door, can now be transformed into a projection system used for both vehicle communication and unique styling features. A small lighting module that utilizes automotive-grade digital micromirror devices, such as the DLP2021-Q1 or DLP3021-Q1, can display an endless number of patterns in any color imaginable as well as communicate warnings and alerts to drivers and other vehicles.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

TE's Dynamic Series for Robotics

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and TE Connectivity

If you are designing a robot, a drive system, or any electromechanical system, the dynamic series of connectors from TE Connectivity might be a great solution for your next design. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Jennifer Love from TE Connectivity about the design requirements common in robotic applications and why this new flexible connector with its innovative three point contact design, audible locking system, and dedicated tooling make it a great solution for all kinds of robotic designs.

Click here for more information about TE Connectivity Dynamic D8000 Pluggable Connectors